No, I didn’t just call you

“Hi, I just missed a call from this number.” No, you didn’t. You spoofed my number.

The first time it happened, was actually via a text message. Someone wrote, “Who is this?” The non-cybersavvy, coffee deprived and inclined to be helpful mom in me responded with, “Sorry, I’m confused. You just texted me.”

Mystery texter responded, “I just missed a call from this number.”

Kindly, I replied, “Sorry, but I didn’t text you.”

Sometimes I get really annoyed with myself when I make these silly little mistakes that could result in something as minor as future annoyance or as critical as fraud.

Now, I get phone calls multiple times a day from a variety of different people, men and women, claiming to have just missed a call from me.

It’s called spoofing, and in the email world, it’s been around for a while. Many fraudsters have traditionally used spoofing as part of their phishing campaigns. Now, they are spoofing cell phones.

It’s a thing, though according to my tightly knit circle, it’s not happening everywhere to everyone, but I can confirm that it is happening with a variety of different cell phone providers from Sprint to AT&T.

My experience with the customer service provider at Sprint was less than helpful, so I had to go out and do some research on my own, and I’ve yet to gain clarity on whether there are any critical security risks that we cell phone users need to be wary of.

As best as I can tell, there is a risk of giving away our personal information to a fraudster, so share nothing with no one and tell your kids to do the same.

Because, “Spoofing is often used as part of an attempt to trick someone into giving away valuable personal information so it can be used in fraudulent activity or sold illegally,” the act is prohibited by the FCC.

There are all sorts of unwanted phone calls, much like junk mail that has gone from the traditional mailbox to our email boxes. It’s another marketing technique, albeit not a good one.

But, unwanted calls are different from spoofing. These are not telemarketers, and there are step beyond adding your number to a national do not call list that you can and should take if you find yourself answering a random return call that you never actually dialed.

The trick is in recognizing the fraudulent caller. When a fraudster is using the spoofing tools, “The caller ID feature is sometimes manipulated by spoofers who masquerade as representatives of banks, creditors, insurance companies, or even the government,” according to the FCC.

Here are some peculiar details to watch for.

  1. There is no caller ID
  2. The number looks surprisingly like yours, except the last 4 digits are different
  3. It’s often the same statement, “I just missed a call from this number.”
  4. It could also be a text message asking, “Who is this?”

Your best bet is to start blocking the numbers, lest you decide to change your phone number all together. It’s an option that is offered, though a huge hassle with no guarantee that the number won’t be spoofed again.

To play it safe, just don’t answer a call unless you recognize the number, and don’t respond to random text messages. If you think your number has been compromised, you can also file a complaint with the FCC or ask your provider about Caller ID apps.

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